Tag Archives: guild wars 2

All Aboard

If you’re reading this, I probably don’t need to tell you that this week is the E3 Expo in Los Angeles (probably video gaming’s biggest convention in terms of developer participation and announcements). Appropriate then, that I’m starting the week off talking about hype…begin Hype Week!

The greatest hype train of all...

This past weekend was a long one for me; we had a significant software update to the system for which I share responsibility; upgrades of this nature typically involve long hours as we try to get a lot of things done during a very short windows that our users have agreed is an acceptable downtime. The last two days were no exception. After putting in nearly a normal work week (for us 37.5 hour-a-week “drones”) over two days, I’m tired but sufficiently pleased at what we got done. Higher education might not be the most exciting or “forward thinking” in terms of technology, but you really can’t complain about the schedule – one weekend a year is well worth it. Mission accomplished.

What this weekend did allow me to do is catch up on some reading. The silver lining to doing major BI system upgrades is that most of the steps entail a nice chunk of work followed by a lengthy downtime as the systems crunch through their processes. So I caught up on some GW2 reading.

Basically, I stopped paying much attention to Guild Wars 2 after they announced the Ranger. By that time I was sufficiently sold that the game was going to be well worth the investment; ArenaNet could have stopped there and already guaranteed my pre-order for the Collector’s Edition. Plus, I’ve had a really averse reaction to The Hype recently and, honestly, I don’t follow the MMOs or games I’m most looking forward to anymore. At least, not through official channels. Basically, if I want to know about TOR I read MMOGamerChick and if I want to know about Guild Wars 2 I read Kill Ten Rats (I actually read many others, but I find their thoughts and opinions have really meshed with mine in the past).

With all that “downtime” staring me in the face in 20 to 30 minute chunks, and no energy to muster for other projects, I figured I would bite the bullet, dive in, and really catch up on the GW2 information I’d intentionally tried to ignore.

Now I’m excited.

I blame the reveal of the Engineer. I managed to hold out through Norn Week and even through the reveal of The Thief. But the Engineer broke me. Not that I’m interested so much in the class as much as that the Engineer is such a divergence from what I expected. The first hard evidence of exactly how much the world of Tyria has changed since the first game. And it’s the most striking evidence (in my mind) of how much the developers have changed, and are hoping to change, about the way we play.

Some quick thoughts:

  • It’s not about solo or group play, it’s just about playing. Between the already-stated flat leveling curve (can it really be called a curve?) and the obvious self-sufficient nature of all the classes, it’s clear that ArenaNet has kept the solo player in mind. However, from what I’ve seen so far the classes complement each other so well that seeing what’s possible when working together is reason enough to group up. If the “dynamic content” can truly scale up and down, effectively and seamlessly, so as to always keep things challenging then ArenaNet has something truly game changing.Most times I log in to an MMO, I’ve already determined what my focus will be for that session – solo questing, group content, crafting, reputation, etc. It takes the adventure out of it a little bit. Why can’t I just log in and “see what happens”? RIFT does this somewhat, and GW2 seems to be going that route too.
  • The combat looks terrific. I always liked the combat in Guild Wars because it was a lot more fast-paced and strategic than many of its brethren. When you can only bring 8 skills into play at once, combat becomes more about position, prioritizing targets, and superior strategy. Combat just seems a lot more active; hopefully Guild Wars 2 (and the crop of action-oriented MMOs that are approaching) have brought an end to the era of toe-to-toe, ‘mano-a-monster’ fighting that’s really just about clicking the right button out of 40 or more, at the right time. Add to this the skill-swapping that occurs with changing weapons and players can still adapt on the fly.
  • This looks like the game I wanted Guild Wars to be. There have always been things about Guild Wars that I’ve absolutely loved – in particular, the lore, the class system, and especially the visuals. But the game could never really hook me like other MMOs and I’ve always ended up playing in small chunks of time (I’ve never even finished Nightfall or even purchased Eye of the North. Mostly it’s because of the highly instanced nature of the game. While instancing the adventure areas makes possible some of what Guild Wars does best, it’s hard to complain. But being separated from the population at large just kept it from clicking. Guild Wars 2 is looking like it has the best of both – everything I loved about the original with a more open world that still allows ArenaNet to create the experiences they want.

As you can tell, ArenaNet has me. I was excited for Guild Wars 2 and there was never any doubt about playing it. But now I am well and truly slavering at the bit to get my hands on this game. *sigh*

Onwards to 2011

“Vacation” is now over, though this year’s holiday break didn’t look much like those previous; working for a university means I get the week between Christmas and New Year’s off, but with two young kids at home it was more of a “working” vacation and didn’t provide much time for gaming. It was still highly enjoyable, however, as spending a week with the kids is a rare thing; between chipping away at some massive LEGO sets and TRON: Legacy with my older son and naps and “stair ball” (in which I throw a ball with blinking LED lights down our stairs hundreds of times to immense hilarity) with my younger son, we had a great time.

2010 was a tough year for our family; my wife and I were discussing this over New Year’s Eve dinner at our favorite restaurant and both agreed that we were definitely ready for the new year. We should have seen it coming when we started with a horrendous stomach bug that hit everyone in the house – it was going to be a difficult year, including, but not limited to, work trouble for both of us, major car troubles, and several large and unforeseen expenses. Some good parts as well, to be sure, but overall a year we’re glad to put behind us. Life goes on, both Real and Pixeled.

I’ve never been much for looking back, and if you had asked me at the start of last year about developments in the MMO industry during 2010, I would have been dead wrong on many counts. So instead of making general predictions for MMOs in 2011, I’m going to keep it personal and mention the games about which I’m most excited; I’m only predicting what I will end up playing or doing this year. Besides, if you want predictions for the coming year, there are some very good ones on Bio Break, Keen and Graev, and Kill Ten Rats (most of which I agree). And anyway, any predictions, be they about personal choices or industry developments, are going to be reflections on the genre as a whole.

2011 looks to be a banner year for our genre, so there’s a lot to discuss. Here goes.

RIFT: Planes of Telara: A lot of positive buzz is coming out of the recent RIFT betas, and though I haven’t done a ton of reading up on it, I’m definitely interested. Interested enough to pre-order. From what I have seen, the game is absolutely gorgeous, and polishes the genre staples to a high gloss. The lack of new or “revolutionary” features doesn’t bother me; like Gordon over at We Fly Spitfires, I’ve realized that I like themepark games and I don’t need revolutionary mechanics or gameplay as long as I’m having fun. I’m a tourist in MMOs – not in the sense that I jump from title to title without commitment, but that I play them mostly for the sights and the stories.

RIFT looks like the perfect game for a tourist such as myself. I’ll play it on and off for long enough to see the sights, then retire the account.

Guild Wars 2: If this game even launches in 2011, I have a feeling that my relationship with Guild Wars 2 is going to be much like my relationship to its older sibling – I’ll want to love it and play through its content, but something about it just won’t click. Everything I’m seeing and hearing about the game has me excited, and the visuals are stunning (as always), but the current incarnation can only seem to hold my attention for a week or so at a time, and I have a suspicion that GW2 will be the same.

However, if ArenaNet can cut back on the heavy instancing and really do the dynamic content the way I’m hoping, this could surprise me and take up a good chunk of my time. No matter what, this is near the top of my “Must Buy” list and I have no doubt that I’ll be there on launch day.

The Old Republic: As a serious fan of the franchise (more BioWare’s Old Republic, less so Star Wars these days) this is The Big One on my list for 2011. I stopped reading almost everything about the game several months ago, as I was tired of the hype cycle and the inevitable noise, from both the über-fans and the hardcore skeptics, that accompanies every announcement. Not that my excitement or anticipation is any less, but more that I want to go into the game as fresh as possible.

TOR is Number One on my list of new games for 2011 (as I’m sure it is for many), and I already know it will be a serious contender for my attention. Based on their past performance I have faith that BioWare will create a fun experience, and their supposed focus on story definitely sits well with me. It almost doesn’t matter what they charge – the Collector’s Edition shall be mine!

Lord of the Rings Online: As weird as it seems, this one is the hardest for me to predict for 2011. Despite recent evidence to the contrary in my many “opinionated” (negative) comments, I’ve been having a lot of fun in LotRO recently. The lore and my kin keep things interesting as always, I’m still enjoying the Yule Festival, and I’ve yet to seriously look into Enedwaith, so there’s no lack of content for me. Moreso, the announcement of Isengard has me excited and hopeful for the future of LotRO; if Turbine can do this expansion “right” and give us something new, it would go a long way to keeping us engaged.

But, if I had to make a prediction for 2011, I’d have to say that I’m going to stop playing LotRO. I absolutely love my Burglar, and I love the game, but it seems like the things I love about LotRO are things I loved about the game that have since changed, been lost over the past year, or have been crowded out by the “business side” of Turbine running their MMO.

I hate to think about leaving, but between a series of small but bad decisions regarding the Store and the looming threat of newer MMOs, I think it will become harder and harder for me to log in. I’ve been with LotRO since the beginning, which is three times longer than any other MMO I’ve played, and I have some great friends there, but Turbine’s treatment of its players and the incessant, unmitigated “upsell” of the Cash Shop is becoming a tougher and tougher pill to swallow.

I get the distinct feeling that Turbine cares only for converting Free Players into Paying Players and how many nickels and dimes they can wring out of every customer; either they no longer regard their long-term customers and fans as viable income (perhaps we spend less in the Store per person?) or it’s simply not an option to try to keep us happy. Either way, its looking like its only about Money now, not Fun or Enjoyment or creating an Experience, and that hurts. Hell, I imagine the only reason they haven’t pushed harder against Tolkien’s canon is because of contractual obligation, not a desire to stay true to the material or please Tolkien fans.

Of all my predictions, this is the one about which I hope I’m the most wrong. I hope that next year I’m still hopping around Middle Earth, fighting alongside Dunedain, Hobbits, and Ents(!) and standing toe-to-toe against Orcs, Trolls, and Nazgûl. Isengard could be a killer expansion that keeps me coming back for more and more. I hope.

MMO “X”: I don’t yet know what this game will be (hence the “X”), but I’m convinced that this year I will start to play more games with my older son (5 years old). He’s shown an increasing interest in playing something that goes beyond simple Flash games and I see no reason not to have him join me in a hobby I love (if I can just convince his mother!). Maybe it will be LEGO Universe, maybe Wizard 101, or maybe something else. Whatever it ends up being, 2011 will likely see my son’s first steps into a virtual world.

It makes a father so proud!

Earthrise: I’ve been following this game on and off since it was first announced, and I will likely give it a try. I’ve been looking for both a good sandbox-style game and a good Sci Fi MMO, and Earthrise looks like it could be both! I have a few reservations and concerns, but I think I will enjoy this one. It launches early this year so there’s not much competition in terms of time.

I don’t think Earthrise will gather a huge following, but I think it will do well enough and, given time, grow into a strong community.

“Free-To-Play”/“Free-To-Try” Gaming: Two types of predictions for this category. One, which games will make the switch to the Free To Try/F2P Hybrid that grew in popularity throughout 2010 and, two, some thoughts on upcoming F2P titles I’ll likely jump into and play.

First, if I had to guess, I’d say that Star Trek Online, Warhammer Online, and Age of Conan will all move to the Cash Shop/Hybrid model this year. Others will as well, but as this is a list of personal predictions, I’m only going to comment on these three because, if they do, I will likely play them. Age of Conan more than the other two, but all three are games in which I’m interested and would love to explore, but don’t feel they are worth the price of admission.

On the side of new games launching in 2011, I can safely say that I will try Black Prophesy and Jumpgate: Evolution. Both remind me of what is probably one of my top three games of all time – Tie Fighter. I’ve been dying for a good space combat flight-sim that makes me break out my joystick again, and both could fit that bill. I think both will launch in 2011.

Also launching this year, and which I will at least check out, are APB: Reloaded and The Agency. I will likely drop DDO and Vindictus from my regular cycle of games, but because the barrier to entry and exit is so low, I will check in from time to time.

So that’s it. My thoughts on the coming year.  As I said, 2011 doesn’t hold much of interest for me in the single-player games, but looks to be a hallmark year for MMOs. And, yes, some of the above is undoubtedly self-fulfilling, but there’s always a chance for a surprise hit (or bomb) and, as always, a chance that any of these games could be pushed back to 2012.

Finally, no discussion of the new year would be complete without a resolution or two. Mine is simple: more attention to writing. I haven’t been able to write here as often as I’d like, and I’m going to make a concerted effort to post regularly. I also have an MMO-related project or two in mind that I’d like to move forward.

It’s going be a busy year, but undoubtedly fun!

Drooling, While Stabbing My Ears Out

AHHHHH! The pain...

ArenaNet posted new information for Guild Wars 2 today; it covers the third class revealed so far – the Ranger.

Looks like I’ll be wanting to play a Ranger in Guild Wars 2 even more than I like playing them now in the original. My main avatar in Guild Wars is a Ranger/Elementalist (though I’ve thought about switching up the secondary once that becomes available). “Main” is a bit misleading here, as I abandoned all of what I started when I first purchased Guild Wars so many years ago.

I have to say, the Ranger looks even more enticing after watching the videos. They didn’t need to convince me, but check out the video for Serpent Strike. The picture below just doesn’t do it justice.

Ranger's Skill: Serpent Strike

That green trail? Pure Awesomeness.

Man, that skill is just cool looking, especially followed up with that knife-throwing trick. And the rest of the videos are just as good.  Just about the only thing ArenaNet could do to make me want to play Guild Wars 2 even more is introduce a class that actually, fully uses stealth (like Burglars in LotRO or Rogues in WoW). And the only thing they could do to make me want to play Guild Wars 2 even less is to have those voice-overs as a part of the game. Seriously? If those are in the game, I need a way to mute myself. (Note to ArenaNet: These videos are already Pure Internet Joyfullness™ in video format. They stand on their own, you don’t need “witty banter”.)

I never played the Assassin class in Factions (mostly never found the time to play through Prophesies so I would feel “okay” about starting a new character in Factions – I know, I’m weird like that…). So I don’t know if stealth is an option for me now. If it becomes a class in GW2, I’m going to…well, I don’t honestly know what I’m going to do. I better figure out how to get paid for playing these games!

There’s a lot of great information about the class in the reveal, and a really nice summary and discussion over at Massively; there’s not much more I could say that isn’t already pointed out there.

I will say this: I’m beginning to agree with Syp that Guild Wars 2 could be the game that completely dominates the next round of MMOs.

Why Can’t Fun Be Tense?

Overall, I’ve been pretty excited about all of the news that has been releasing thus far on Guild Wars 2. ArenaNet has a well-deserved reputation for taking mechanics considered “standard” and turning them on their head – in a very good way.

I’m even pretty pleased with the recent article about Healing (sorry, Support!) and Death in the game. As a player with limited time, taking some of the “punishment” out of death, and rethinking the holy trinity of Tank/Healer/DPS, can only be good. Greater flexibility in character classes and skills, a little more self-reliance within each class, and some streamlining of grouping and questing means that I spend more of my limited gaming time having fun. Not “preparing to have fun” as the article puts it; waiting for the right combination can be a hassle.

This is one thing that’s never made sense to me: when building the “holy trinity”, why is there only one class that can fill such a critical role? Granted, in LotRO there is more than one class that can heal, but out of nine total classes, only one is a true healer. WoW has one class (maybe two) out of ten. The Old Republic presumably has two out of eight (or sixteen). The list goes on. For a role that is so critical, you’d think developers would create more options.

I loved the “last stand” mechanic of Borderlands (and the Left 4 Dead games); when you’re reduced to near-death, the game gives you a few moments to rally. In Borderlands, if you can defeat any enemy within that half-minute-or-so, you’re restored to working health and can continue fighting. In Left 4 Dead, it’s up to your teammates to help you out, but you can still fire your pistols when downed, contributing something to the fight. Guild Wars 2 will apparently take a similar approach, and I’m all for this. A dynamic scale of effectiveness, as in decreased ability when one’s health/morale approaches zero, is a great idea. I can definitely see how it will add a new layer to combat. Rubi Bayer puts it perfectly in her article on Massively: “If you’ve got an enemy at 10% HP, why is he still fighting and casting at full strength?”.

However, Mr. Peter’s (or maybe I should say the game’s) attitude towards death doesn’t sit quite right with me. One particular statement really stuck with me (emphasis added): “Death penalties make death in-game a more tense experience. It just isn’t fun. We want to get you back into the action (fun) as quickly as possible.” The association seems to be that Tension = Not Fun.

While I’m all for maximizing fun, it seems like ArenaNet has missed the point here. At the least, I think they’ve taken their philosophy of “no mechanic is sacred” a bit too far. A death penalty isn’t just a way for the developers to slap a “Suck” sticker on our foreheads. It’s a part of the Risk-Reward game lends meaning to our actions, and pretty much sits at the core of all gaming. Sure, combat is fun (it better be for how much time we spend fighting!), but being in combat for the sake of combat is just shallow. The possibility of failure, even when the penalty is relatively mild, lends some depth and challenge to combat. And yes, some tension. Why can’t fun be tense? Why is tension anathema to enjoyment? I think many fans of horror movies would have something to say here.

It’s not a huge thing. Considering that we’ve yet to learn all there is to Guild Wars 2, it could be a very small thing. But it’s indiciative of ArenaNet’s thinking. And it’s the first thing I’ve learned about Guild Wars 2 that’s given me a moment of pause, and doubt.

Missing Launch Day

I definitely haven’t reached the point of burn-out that generally leads me to take a break from any given game, but I find myself in a tough situation recently in LotRO. It’s a combination of needing groups to advance the Epic Quests, and recent difficulties with specific instances that have left me frustrated. All in all, it’s left me wanting something new.

Not that I’m looking to leave LotRO. I’m not. There’s a definite process I go through when I’m preparing to take a break from a game, and this is not it. But I have found myself yearning for something very specific – launch day.

Not for a specific game, just the experience of installing a new game, loading it up, and logging into a new world for the first time. The sense of wonder, the immersion, the complete engagement as I explore and absorb new places and new gameplay.

But then there is the other side of launch day – the inevitable patch (sometimes a gigabyte or more) for which any one player among thousands is competing, server instability, and outright downtime. For many reasons, I have a deep appreciation for the absolute polish and rock-solid performance of Turbine’s products. The Lord of the Rings Online launch was, hands-down, the best launch day experience I’ve ever had, and sets the bar for all others.

Then there are the recent discussions around two games I am eagerly anticipating – Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic.

For TOR, my concerns over irrevocably “damaging” my characters makes me hesitate when considering a launch day entry into the game. I invest a lot of my meager free time into MMOs, and to have any significant portion of that time “wasted” really hurts; now, it can be argued that as long as I’m having fun, it’s not a waste. But when building an avatar, to find out weeks or months later that a choice I made has led to unintended, unexpected, or unacceptable consequences is a waste.

For Guild Wars 2, Ravious pretty much lays out one of the potential issues with the dynamic event system. It mostly comes down to population levels around launch day. Not server stability, but with groupless content and high populations in starter areas. It’s beginning to look questionable when considering whether or not ArenaNet’s systems can scale appropriately, or that that content would even be fun.

For both games, I have to wonder whether or not it would be best to wait several months before jumping in. Give the truly dedicated players a chance to explore and map out the possible choices, or vacate the starter areas. Which begs the question: why does it have to be a launch day for a new game? For anyone who follows MMOs as closely as I do, the answer is easy: after a few months, the item/quest/world databases have started in earnest, guides are written, and endgame details are already starting to filter through. Unless I completely shut out all information about a specific game, I’m learning all about a world before playing – it’s just through other players. The game has already started to lose its shiny, whether I’m in it or not.

It’s likely that I’ll jump in at launch for both titles, but I have to wonder: will it be worth it?